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There is both an art and a science to the delivery of healthcare. The safe and effective healthcare practitioner must become capable in both aspects of care. Throughout history, the education of each generation of healthcare providers is the responsibility of those already engaged in the practice of the profession. This results in certain unique challenges for both the provider and the novice learning to acquire the skills necessary to provide care. There is benefit obviously to the student in their clinical education, but there is also benefit to the facility and clinicians that provide the clinical education. The student in the clinical setting has unique ethical and legal ramifications. The student is not licensed, yet through their relationship with their clinical instructor they are responsible to adhere to all of the legal requirements of the jurisdiction in which they are practicing. They are also responsible to adhere to the Code of Ethics of the American Physical Therapy Association. All of this occurs within the context of both the facility they are placed at and their academic institution. It is easy to understand how the student can find themselves at times conflicted regarding their responsibility. While they may understand and appreciate their role as they develop into an entry-level practitioner, they are responsible to fulfill that role under the supervision of their clinical instructor. The cases in this section highlight some of the different ways in which the relationship between the student and the clinical instructor (CI) may be challenged.

When physical therapists (PTs) and physical therapist assistants (PTAs) agree to work with a student, they take on a significant responsibility, but there are many positive benefits of the student–clinical instructor relationship, competence is one of them. Helping a new clinician become competent is rewarding, and nobody can deny the professional growth that a clinical instructor experiences from their mentorship role. The clinical instructor and the student both have the responsibility to maintain a positive learning environment without losing sight of their shared responsibility to the patient.

Cases in this section:

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Student or PT Abdication of supervision
The Student Advocate New professional responsibility
Project professional skills Inappropriate professional behavior


Abdication of supervision

Bob considers himself very fortunate; his first clinical placement following the conclusion of his first year in PT school has been an incredible experience. His CI Stephanie, the practice manager, has been welcoming and willing to share not just her PT knowledge but insights into the business of physical therapy. In addition to her position as practice manager, Stephanie was one of the PTs for a dance troupe based in the city, but she accompanied them for 2 weeks at a time twice a year when they went on tour. Stephanie explained to Bob that she would be leaving on tour, but fortunately it was during ...

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